2023 Best Ball Football Underrated Running Backs

by Davis Peng
2023 Best Ball Football Underrated Running Backs

Welcome to my 2023 Best Ball Football Underrated Running Backs. If you have not joined Underdog yet, what are you waiting for? Join today by using this link, and you'll get your first deposit matched up to $100.

I do these segments annually and cover every Underdog Best Ball Formats position. I aim to help you by shedding some light on the players I am currently drafting and why. I have these players who will pay off their ADP and then some. You can use these for other best ball leagues, such as RTSports, as the rationale is the same, but the ADP data is from UD.

I draft hundreds of teams every season with high advance rates and deep finishes in all the Best Ball tournaments. If you want to follow my journey and how I view Best Ball, you can do so by checking out my profile. There will be past articles from previous seasons that hit the mark, rankings, and a beginner's guide to Best Ball.

Now that has been explained, let's start with what you are here for. I will give you some under-drafted 2023 Fantasy Football Best Ball Underrated Running Backs.

2023 Best Ball Football Underrated Running Backs

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Derrick Henry, Tennessee Titans

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Underdog ADP - 23 (RB8)

Did we forget why Derrick Henry is known as "King Henry?". The man has been an elite rusher every year since 2019 and beyond. He had an RB4-level finish or better every year and an average PPG of 20 in Half-PPR formats. He will uphold his 2/3 turn value and should be a priority pick when he falls to you in the 3rd rounds.

Efficiency To Return

Tennessee Titans were by far one of the worst NFL teams offensively. That entirely relied on Derrick Henry on the ground and through the air. Totaling 1936 scrimmage yards and being the Titan's fifth-leading receiver. Yes, you read that correctly. Henry was the fifth leading receiver on the team. The Titan's most receiving yards on the team was Robert Woods at 527 yards.

With Deandre Hopkins on the team and a healthy second-year Treylon Burks, Henry will no longer be facing the most stacked box in the NFL. In comparison, the second-highest rushing attempts was Josh Jacobs, who met nearly half the amount of 8 personnel stacked boxes. This will, in turn, alleviate some of the weight on the bad Titans' offensive line.

Predicting Elites To Fall Offs Doesn't Work

One of the fantasy football community's flaws is predicting when elite players go downhill. I get it; we don't want to be the ones left carrying the bags when things don't work out, but predicting a falloff for a consistent elite player doesn't work. Henry, Travis Kelce, Austin Ekeler, Deandre Hopkins, Davante Adams, Aaron Jones, and Tyreek Hill were all pegged as players to regress, and all had a strong to elite level season. Analysts can point to Ezekiel Elliot as an "I told you so," but from a point total, Elliot was RB17 while missing four games.

Overall the accuracy of predicting when an elite-level guy becomes irrelevant is laughable. This is a cautionary to at least have field levels amounts of Henry.

Najee Harris, Pittsburgh Steelers

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Underdog ADP - 38 (RB13)

If you have followed my Best Ball journey this year, you knew Najee Harris would be on the list. The fantasy community is notorious for over-correction regarding bad years, and Najee is this year's victim.

He was considered a first-round level player the last two seasons but now is now sitting on that three/four turn because he was a "bust" in 2022. I agree that he missed the mark in 2022, but the warning signs were there from the get-go. Najee had a Lisfranc injury in the middle of the off-season, you had a rookie QB and Mitchell Trubisky at the helm, and the offensive line was ranked at the bottom coming into the season.

The price is excellent this time, and you're paying for him at a floor level with plenty of upside.

A Tale Of Two Seasons

I will point it out again, but Najee could have had a better season. On average, he was drafted in the first round and finished as RB14; that's not the payout you're hoping for in your first-round players. But what if I told you that Najee had two kinds of seasons in 2022?

He had a bad first half where he was RB24 from Week 1 to Week 8. Then his second half of the season, Week 10 to Week 18, he was the RB5 on the season and RB8 in PPG. I get that the first half really sucked, but once they caught past the BYE week, Najee turned the season around and was fantasy relevant every week.

The Jaylen Warren Argument

Jaylen Warren had a nice story in 2022, an undrafted free agent who has a bit of burst and looks good while running the ball. Outside of that, he has been romanticized as this fantastic running back who will steal the job from Najee. That couldn't be further from the truth. There is a lot to unpack when referencing how good Warren is and how much he affects Najee going forward.

Warren had 0 games on the season where he was limited Najee's workload. There are few games where Warren had many rushing attempts, but this is their stat comparison.

  • Week 9 Warren had a 4.1 YPC with nine carries against New Orleans, but Harris was at 5 YPC on 20 carries.
  • In week 14 against Carolina, Warren had 11 carries at 3.5 YPC, but Harris had 24 carries for 3.6 YPC.
  • Week 17 against Baltimore, where Najee carried the rock much more and still finished pretty decent at 5.05.
    • One of my earlier off-season articles references this in full detail.

When you compare the rushing stat line, it shows that Warren is a supplemental player on the team. Warren will likely take away some pass-catching plays from Najee, but overall doesn't hinder the upside as much. Najee will probably get all the high-value touches in the end zone.

Brian Robinson, Washington Commanders

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Underdog ADP - 112 (RB37)

I am wrapping my head around how Antonio Gibson started 20 - 30 spots behind Brian Robinson. To now being drafted 20 - 30 spots ahead of Brian Robinson while having zero negative news on the season. Robinson is exactly the kind of player Best Ball Drafters should be taking.  I know a good chunk of the logic for not taking Robinson is that "Gibson will be the pass-catching option," therefore limiting the upside.

This leads back to my beginner guide articles. "Know the rules and format." Receptions are excellent, but they get overblown in Underdog's Half-PPR format. The best part is that Robinson goes so late that he fits in all roster constructions. Therefore Robinson is a player you can get overweight on just due to how easily he is to plug in.

Making The Case

I researched Ron Rivera's coaching history last year and outside of the injury to Robinson. My research held up regarding Commanders going into a running back by committee. The touch counts were also spot on, as I had both players hitting that low to mid 200 touch count.

I expect this to continue but in favor of Robinson. Robinson had approximately 220 touches while missing the first four games of his season because he was shot twice. If Robinson had played 17 games at his current touch rate, he would have gone over 300 touches. If this doesn't indicate that Robinson's role is significant, then I don't know what it signifies.

Robinson's Floor And Role

Robinson is the larger running back, and I expect him to be the A.J. Dillion of his team, where he absorbs most of the goal-line role for his team. The Commanders have already established that Robinson is the guy they will lean on through the season. Given Robinson's usage, his floor at worst is 1020 yards and six touchdowns, which would put him in the RB24 range. This is approximately 13 positional ADPs away from where he is being taken.

More Best Ball Content

Suppose you are new to Best Ball or want to understand my thought process on how to play the game, here are my rankings and my beginner guide.

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